It looks like episode 6 might be another unofficial two part story. Detained separates Ms. Quill from the rest of the class but based on the final scene of this story, it looks like episode 7 will reveal what she was up to while the students were in detention. But I’m putting the cart before the horse. Let’s talk about Detained.
Detained is one of those pared down episodes that prove you don’t need big special effects to tell a great story. We are given a “reduced” story; one where they use limited scenery, cast, special effects. Take, for example, Doctor Who’s Midnight where the Doctor is stuck on a shuttle with an alien who repeats everything. There are no special effects barring the brief image of outside the shuttle. The alien isn’t even alien looking! Similarly, this takes the main characters of Class and literally locks them in a classroom for detention. There is a brief image of asteroids flying through space before they collide with the conveniently placed crack in time and space, causing a piece of one to fly into the classroom but after that, the only prop is the rock with a bit of glow-y matter. (Well, and a scene of Charlie putting his arm out the door only to see it come back in next to him, but it’s not a winning effect!) So what can you do with 5 kids locked in a classroom with a rock for roughly 45 minutes? A lot, as it turns out.
This may be one of the strongest episodes of the series and considering the absence of even another supporting character, that speaks volumes. Look, we have a limited number of episodes and there is a lot to get to know about these people. Courtesy of the “meteor of truth”, we’re going to get to know them and see just how “real” they are. Matteusz does love Charlie but he’s also afraid of him. Tanya hates feeling like a little sister, a tagalong, and thinks the others just tolerate her. Although three years younger than the rest of the class, she is the first to realize the rock houses a sentience. Ram admits he loves April and is afraid he will always love her more than she loves him. April admits she doesn’t love Ram as much as he loves her. Charlie ends up being the hero of the hour on two fronts: when April lets go of the rock and collapses, he runs in and catches her in action-hero style. Then for an encore he destroys the prisoner in the rock, bringing everyone home. Great stuff.
Of course, the real beauty of the writing is that these are complex characters; they are not two-dimensional. April tries to get through to Ram that she’s allowed to have complicated feelings. Her feelings right now are not necessarily the feelings she will have in a month, or a year. That right there is all we really need from characters in fiction; an acknowledgement that if they do something out of sync with a previously established idea, it could be just a question of being a complex, emotional being. Charlie struggles with the desire to commit genocide against his enemy; and to his people, the thought is as bad as the action. He already considers himself guilty of the crime by merely thinking of it! Tanya passes a comment about “white people” which offers a look at her own feelings claiming that the happy ending is such a “white people” idea. I confess I was very impressed with the way this was handled because it could so easily have been clumsily played out. Instead, we get her raw thoughts but she quickly apologizes that her emotions are frayed. There again, the writing is brilliant. The character is making her friend and the audience aware that she’s influenced by something and she’s reacting, perhaps out of character. Considering the recent discussion between April and Ram about his cultural background, I can’t help but think this series was ready to take on a lot of important subjects and maybe shed some light where it’s needed. In fact, the best observation is when Tanya is feeling like the “5th” wheel, April points out that they are all different. Ram has an alien leg, and she has a heart connected to a Shadow being. Charlie is an alien prince and Matteusz is a gay man who has to contend with the feelings of those around him. Tanya, being 3 years younger, is almost a non-issue, but it matters to her and April helps her recognize that. And how true: we are all different in some way even among our own “kind”, whether we are talking about gender, culture, family, team. We are all different and in a way, that makes us all the same! Embrace it!
Yet for all the deep impact of these moments, I can’t leave out those great lines, that either make us laugh or impress us. Charlie explains that he learned from the Doctor that you can’t avenge genocide with genocide. Matteusz tries to explain Narnia to Charlie which leads to its own comical banter over Charlie’s understanding of the book. But the best line comes from Quill after she returns and saves Charlie from one final attack as the prisoner tries to pull him into its prison: “You can’t even handle detention right!” Although, I can’t dismiss Ram’s annoyed “Athlete’s can have brains!” line as a contender for best line of the episode.
I am consistently amazed that this series did not last past 8 episodes. If it weren’t for lack of any advertising, I think this series had a lot of potential. Yes, the language might have elevated it to a teen audience and maybe that was a mistake, but it wasn’t over the top. Perhaps it’s a mistake to alienate the younger viewers of the show but I don’t believe that contributed to the end of the series.
Well, we’ll have to see what happened with Quill but that’s next week. Until then, Class dismissed. ML
In 1985, a movie called The Breakfast Club dramatized how a school detention can make children find out more about themselves. Adding a science-fiction plot to this kind of drama enhances the dilemma of whether it’s for better or worse. But it still creates a mutual understanding for all the Class teens and they become all the more personalized for the audience. As with the resolution in The Breakfast Club, we understand that we’re all the same in the sense that we’re all individually unique which, certainly regarding all the challenging diversities for children in high school, quite pivotally makes them all wonder where they will all go from here.
High school days are crucial times in a child’s personal evolution. So when Class does an episode that thankfully makes us contemplate what we should, it’s even sadder that this show couldn’t be more durable on television. Thanks, ML, for your review.
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From 12 Angry Men to The Breakfast Club, and from another Dr. Who spinoff, namely Mindgame, to Class: Detained, the ensuing dramas between a group of people left in a room together prove to be a particular adventure without the excitements of the outside world. Because the ensemble is compelled to look within for whatever meanings can sustain them. You may naturally dislike one of your companions in the room to start with and vice versa until you learn more about both each other and yourselves. You can even more easily have whatever principles you live by challenged by the sudden realization that not all is as it seems. Or having all the moralized black-and-whites shifted into shades of gray. The fact that this can all come to light in the confines of a small room says a lot.
So Detained reminds us that whatever the genre, we still need these confining dramas to remind us that there is adventurous value even in the most seemingly unlikely places. Knowing of course how intentionally humiliating schools can be regarding detentions, it’s poetic justice to know that here it gives the Class teens their arguably most personally fruitful adventure.
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